Wednesday, May 18, 2011

R. M. Schindler, Richard Neutra and Louis Sullivan's "Kindergarten Chats"

(Click on images to enlarge).
Portrait of Louis H. Sullivan, from Kindergarten Chats on Architecture, Education and Democracy by Sullivan and edited by Claude F. Bragdon, Scarab Fraternity Press, 1934, frontispiece. 

Louis Henry Sullivan is the taproot of the genealogical tree of modern architects in Southern California. His apprentices Irving Gill and Frank Lloyd Wright had a profound influence on the evolution of modern architecture in the Southland which in turn attracted Frank's son Lloyd, Viennese emigres R. M. Schindler and Richard Neutra and their eventual apostles Harwell Hamilton Harris, Gregory Ain and Raphael Soriano (see below). (Author's note: Chicago History Museum link provides an excellent summary of Sullivan's life and career). 

Genealogy of Los Angeles Modern Architecture from American Architects and the Mechanics of Fame by Roxanne Kuter Williamson, p. 32.

R. M. Schindler and Richard Neutra became aware of Louis Sullivan and his work through the teachings and work of  Adolf Loos and their fascination with Sullivan apprentice Frank Lloyd Wright's Wasmuth Portfolio first published in Berlin, Germany in 1910 by Ernst Wasmuth. Schindler discovered Wasmuth in 1911 and Neutra first saw it in 1914, the year Schindler left Vienna for the U.S. They both met while studying under Loos from 1912-14. 

Announcement for an Adolf Loos Lecture, "Ornament and Crime" on February 21, 1913 which was likely attended by both Schindler and Neutra. From Adolf Loos by Alessandra Coppa, 24 Ore Cultura, 2013, p. 114.

Loos had visited the U.S. between 1893-96 and became enthralled with Chicago and it's Adler & Sullivan-designed skyscrapers and later regaled his students with tales of the booming Midwestern metropolis and Sullivan's work. Thus the previous genealogical diagram should be amended to include a dashed line connecting Sullivan to Loos and extending to Schindler and Neutra. The table below also places Wagner, Sullivan, Loos, Wright, Schindler, and Neutra in historical context with their published doctrines. (See also the Pauline Schindler discussion on architectural lineages near the end of this article.)

Schindler-Neutra Genealogy in a Trans-Atlantic Context from "The Wagnerschule and Adolf Loos," by August J. Sarnitz in RM Schindler: Composition and Construction edited by Lionel March and Judith Sheine, Academy Editions, 1993, p. 32.

Auditorium Building, 50 E. Congress St., Chicago, 1889. Adler and Sullivan, architects.

"New Offices of Adler & Sullivan, Architects, Chicago," Engineering and Building Record, June 7, 1890, p. 5.

Ironically, Gill and Wright were still working together in Sullivan's office (see above) about the time Loos arrived to view the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition which included Sullivan's massive Transportation Building, the most modernist-leaning building in the exposition (see below). (See also my "Irving Gill, Homer Laughlin and the Beginnings of ModernArchitecture in Los Angeles, Part I: 1893-1911").

Transportation Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Adler & Sullivan, architects.

Sullivan wrote of the deleterious impact of the Exposition's architecture on his hard-fought battle for the acceptance of a more modern architectural language,
"Meanwhile the virus of the World's Fair, after a period of incubation ... began to show unmistakable signs of the nature of the contagion. There came a violent outbreak of the Classic and the Renaissance in the East, which slowly spread Westward, contaminating all that it touched, both at its source and outward.... By the time the market had been saturated, all sense of reality was gone. In its place, had come deep seated illusions, hallucinations, absence of pupillary reaction to light, absence of knee-reaction-symptoms all of progressive cerebral meningitis; the blanketing of the brain. Thus Architecture died in the land of the free and the home of the brave.... The damage wrought by the World's Fair will last for half a century from its date, if not longer." (The Autobiography of an Idea by Louis Sullivan).
I do not wish to delve into the text of Sullivan's Kindergarten Chats with this article but only to give the reader a sense of the impact the nature-loving Sullivan had on both Schindler and Neutra through their relationships with him. A close reading of the Chats however, will provide numerous hints that Sullivan's writings profoundly influenced Schindler's philosophical articles on "Space Architecture" and Neutra's development of his theories on "Biorealism" which he expounded upon in his Survival Through Design, Nature Near and other published work. (See for example below and Nuetra's 1935 review of the Chats further below. Also see my Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism, 1927-1936 for more on the publication of Schindler's "Space Architecture" in the February 1934 issue of Dune Forum edited by Pauline Schindler.). 

Realismo biologico: Un neuvo Renacimiento humanistico en arquitectura by Richard Neutra, Editorial Nueva Vision, Buenos Aires, 1973. Serulnic House living room, Julius Shulman Job No. 2092, November 2, 1955, courtesy Getty Research Institute. (From my collection).

Schindler moved to Chicago in 1914 with the ultimate goal of working with Wright. His first Chicago employment was with the firm of Ottenheimer, Stern & Reichert between 1914 and 1918. Schindler met Wright in December, 1914 and finally began working for him on February 5, 1918. In December, 1918 Schindler, then living at Wright's Oak Park Studio while Wright was in Japan working on the Imperial Hotel, invited Sullivan for a visit where they met for the only time. See Sullivan's acceptance letter below. (For much more on the initial meeting of Wright and Schindler see my "Irving Gill, Homer Laughlin and the Beginnings of ModernArchitecture in Los Angeles, Part II, 1911-1916").

Louis Sullivan to R. M. Schindler letter, 12-12-1918. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, R. M. Schindler Papers.


A by then destitute Sullivan was unsuccessfully trying to find a publisher for his Kindergarten Chatswhich he had recently spent five months revising and editing into book format. The "Chats" were originally conceived as fifty-two separate articles that appeared weekly in the Interstate Architect and Builder from February 16, 1901 to February 8, 1902 (see review above). It was an extended dialogue between a student and the master who leads him through a kind of spiritual and psychological confrontation with nature before introducing him to social and building analysis - Sullivan's preferred method of architectural instruction. In a 1901 letter to the editor in response to criticism of one of his "Chats" Sullivan responded with the below excerpt describing his plan for a gradual and organically developed thesis comprised by the sum of its 52 parts.

The Interstate Architect and Builder, May 11, 1901, p. 6.

A month after visiting Schindler in Oak Park Sullivan wrote Wright, "I finished the book [Kindergarten Chats] but there are publication troubles, so that I am uncertain as to when the work will appear. However I can wait six months or a year until publishers get over being crazy, as they certainly are now." (Sullivan, Cliff Dwellers to FLW Imperial Hotel, Japan, January 20, 1919 in Frank Lloyd Wright: Letters to Architetcs by Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, Cal State University Fresno, 1984, p. 13).).

Learning of Sullivan's plight during his visit to Wright's studio in Oak Park, Schindler offered to ask his mentor and Sullivan admirer Loos for help in finding an Austrian or German publisher.
Desperately short on funds, Sullivan entrusted Schindler with his only copy of the manuscript. After two attempts to get in contact with Loos, the manuscript was finally sent off to Vienna on March 11, 1920. (Vienna to Los Angeles: Two Journeys by Esther McCoy, Arts + Architecture Press, Santa Monica, CA, 1979, p. 44-5).

Schindler informed Wright in Japan of his scheme to help Sullivan find a publisher to which he replied,
"Your book scheme looks good to me. I hope something can be realized on those volumes, although being printed in German "queers" them just now I suppose in many places." (Frank Lloyd Wright to R. M. Schindler, March 15, 1919. Getty Research Institute, Frank Lloyd Wright Letters).
Adolf Loos, photographer and date unknown. (From Wikipedia).

Schindler did not hear from Loos for a period of months and wrote Neutra, then working at the American Friends' (Quakers) Relief Mission in Vienna, to go see him and find out about the status of the manuscript. Neutra's July 15, 1920 reply was without any news of the manuscript but instead mentioned that Loos was thinking about moving his school to Paris and had asked if he could find out if Sullivan might be interested in heading it up. (McCoy, p. 144).

Schindler relayed the inquiry to Sullivan in a fascinating August 26, 1920 letter (see below) in which he described Loos's love of America and publications on same, him being the only serious opponent against the architectural atrocities of the "Secession," and his controversial, ornament free work. He closed with, "Although not having any direct news about the manuscript, I hear that Loos said that he would try to publish one of your books, and the above offer convinces me that he is in possession of the manuscript and has read it." (RMS letter to Louis Sullivan, August 26, 1920). (See below).

RMS letter to Louis Sullivan, August 26, 1920. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, R. M. Schindler Papers.

Sullivan replied in an August 31st letter that he might be interested in lecturing in Paris but, at his age, he had no interest in becoming the head of a school. He was much more interested in the status of his manuscript. About this same time Neutra wrote to the American Red Cross attempting to find a way to enter the United States to join Schindler. Neutra opened his plea with, "I am an architect and am hoping to go to America to study the Middle Western Architecture, the work of Richardson, Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright who in our opinion is the worlds first architect today." (Richard Neutra to Miss Elsa von Elst, Foreign Language Bureau, American Red Cross, August 14, 1920, Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, R. M. Schindler Papers.).

Late in the year Wright asked Schindler to move to Los Angeles to help his son Lloyd oversee construction of Aline Barnsdall's Hollyhock House in Hollywood. Lloyd's inattention to detail on Olive Hill, likely exacerbated by his moonlighting on the Bollman and Weber houses and various landscape design projects, raised Barnsdall's ire and resulted in Wright's summons to Schindler. (For more on this see my "Tina Modotti, Lloyd Wright and Otto Bollman Connections,1920").

Taos Pueblo, October 1915. Photograph by R. M. Schindler. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.

The Schindler's likely stopped in New Mexico en route to the Grand Canyon and Los Angeles so that Schindler could show Pauline the Taos Pueblo (see above and below) he had first seen in 1915 while visiting Chicago painter friends Victor Higgins and Walter Ufer after viewing the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego. (For more on this see my "Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence"). 

The Schindlers (second and third from bottom) in the Grand Canyon, December 1920. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.

The  possibility of this stopover is evidenced by a letter from Schindler to Richard Neutra shortly after moving to Los Angeles extolling the virtues of the indigenous native architecture of the Southwest. The letter also indicates that Schindler had absorbed Sullivan's lessons on "Function and Form" from the "Chats" and that Sullivan was having trouble getting his books published implying that he was unaware that Neutra had any knowledge of Sullivan's manuscript. 
"The only buildings that testify to any true feeling for the earth from which they spring are the ancient adobe buildings of the first settlers and their successors-Spaniards and Mexicans-in the Southwest. ...
Louis Sullivan is the founder of the "Western School." He was the first proclaim here that "Form follows function," and he sets out to give the skyscraper the form that is natural to it. He writes books on architecture, which have yet to find a publisher in America, and his buildings represent the ultimate that is attainable - attainable, that is, by an architect who has not yet fully grasped the third dimension of space, and whose gift for wonderful pencil sketches of ornamentation still accommodates no truly secure feeling for materials." (R. M. Schindler letter to Richard Neutra, December 1920 or January 1921, Translation from R. M. Schindler, Architect, 1887-1953 by August Sarnitz, Rizzoli, New York, 1988, p. 205).
R. M. and Pauline Gibling Schindler, Sophie and Edmund Gibling, Dorothy Gibling and Mark Schindler at Kings Road, summer 1923. (Sweeney, p. 93). Schindler Family Collection, Courtesy Friends of the Schindler House.

Schindler and wife Pauline arrived in Los Angeles in early December 1920 to work on Wright's Olive Hill Aline Barnsdall compound. Unbeknownst to Schindler, Sullivan's manuscript was now in Neutra's hands. He was trying to interest the Quakers in publishing it without success. Finally, in July 1921, a year before completing work and moving into his new house on Kings Road in West Hollywood (see above), Schindler received confirmation from Neutra that he indeed was in possession of the manuscript and was trying to find a publisher himself. Esther McCoy, in her Vienna to Los Angeles: Two Journeys, illuminates through the correspondence of Schindler and Neutra and letters from Sullivan to Schindler, the efforts Sullivan and Schindler made over the next two years to get the manuscript back from Neutra. The letters from Sullivan to Schindler also portray his dire financial straits and that Wright had authorized Schindler to disburse to him a much-needed $200. (Sullivan to Schindler letter, Chicago, September 8, 1921, McCoy, p. 147).

Neutra apparently was still trying to find a publisher, an exercise that would serve him well when looking for a German publisher for his own first book, Wie Baut Amerika? in 1926-7. He also likely practiced his English by poring over the "Chats" while absorbing Sullivan's teachings and fantasizing about returning the manuscript to him in person, a dream that was not to be realized until 1924.   

In the fall of 1922 Loos submitted an unsuccessful but well-publicized Chicago Tribune Tower competition entry shortly after the Schindlers had moved into their new house in Los Angeles and before Neutra arrived in Chicago in 1924 (see above). Loos's entry, a seemingly serious attempt to win the $50,000 first prize, also appears to indicate that he and/or Neutra possibly translated Sullivan's Chats before handing the manuscript back to Neutra the previous year. His design makes an obvious wink at Sullivan's chapter, "A Doric Column," which derided in great detail its winning selection in a design competition for a memorial for the 200th anniversary of the discovery and founding of the City of Detroit. Sullivan ended his hyperbolic Doric Column chapter chastising the unnamed architect and the selection process with,
"So much for decay, so much for cynicism, for pessimism, for the downfall of the sturdy American pioneer, the hunter, the trapper, the woodsman, the riverman, the greatest in the world, the hardiest, the truest and the best - and their memory to consummate in what? A "Doric" Column! In any other land, in any other time, this would seem a fairy tale, so faithless sounds the story - so inhuman a response." (Kindergarten Chats by Louis Sullivan, Scarab Press, p. 62). (Note: Sullivan disparaged the Doric Column throughout the Chats). 
Without benefit of knowing that Loos had likely read Sullivan's Kindergarten Chats, Katherine Solomonson wrote of the Loos entry in her exhaustively researched book on the competition,
"Adolf Loos, like Bruno Taut, was particularly concerned with the Tribune building's representational qualities. His column of gleaming granite - one of several immense columns submitted to the Tribune became one of the competition's best-known but most ambiguous entries. Seen variously as a joke, a caustic critique, and a sophisticated essay rich in metaphorical allusions, Loos's column has triggered wide-ranging interpretations: it expresses the Tribune's growth and power, as it did that of the Roman Empire; it playfully alludes to a newspaper's printed columns; it suggests that the Tribune is a pillar of society; it refers to the columnar metaphor describing the skyscraper's tripartite elevation; it takes a critical stand against the American city; it is Dada; it is ironic; it is utterly empty of meaning." (The Chicago Tribune Tower Competition: Skyscraper Design and Cultural Change in the 1920s" by Katerine Solomonson, p. 118). 
Loos must have been quite pleased with the multiple entendre his entry presented and must have had great fun with it's design, obviously knowing that his hero Sullivan would likely see it and realize his inside joke. 

"The Chicago Tribune Building," Adolf Loos on Architecture edited by Adolf and Daniel Opel, Ariadne Press, Riverside, CA, 1995, p. 169.

Despite possibly knowing of his Chicago idol Sullivan's utter disdain for the Doric column Loos's entry was seemingly a serious attempt to win the competition evidenced by his post competition article describing his project design inspiration published in early 1923. Loos's intimate knowledge of American skyscrapers from his three years spent in the U.S. is apparent in his piece.
            "In producing this design the author constantly bore in mind the demand in the prospectus "to erect the most beautiful and distinctive office building in the world," to erect a building that once seen, either in a photograph or in reality, can never be forgotten, to raise a monument that will forever be associated with the image of the city of Chicago, just as the dome of St. Peter's is with Rome and the leaning tower with Pisa, to design a building that for the intelligentsia will immediately connect the newspaper, The Chicago Tribune, with a particular character.            
How to achieve this? By erecting the highest building in the world, higher than the Woolworth Building? The restriction on height to 400 feet made this impossible. By repeating the trick of the New York Herald or the Morgan Building and making it lower than the surrounding buildings? Such imitation would run counter to the competition requirements. Or by choosing new architectural forms without tradition, such as German, Austrian and French architects use, forms from the Berlin of Cubism or the Belgium of the 1848 revolution? Alas, all these untraditional forms are all too quickly replaced by new ones and the owner soon realizes his building is old-fashioned because these forms change as fast as ladies' hats. 
There seemed to be nothing for it, then, but to design the typical American skyscraper. When this movement started it was easy to distinguish between them, but already the non-specialist finds it difficult to say whether the building whose photograph he is looking at is in San Francisco or Detroit.
            For his design, therefore, the author chose the column. There are precedents in the tradition for the concept of a huge, freestanding column: the Column of Trajan was the model for Napoleon's column on PlaceVendome. I was immediately assailed by architectural and aesthetic reservations. Is it permissible to build an inhabited column? To that one must answer that precisely the most beautiful designs for skyscrapers have been taken from monuments that were not intended for habitation and no one has yet objected to them for that reason. For example the classical model of the tomb of King Mausolus for the Metropolitan Building and the model of the Gothic spire for the Woolworth Building.
          

(Author's note: Loos is also likely to have recalled the Doric Column that was part of the 1913 International Building Trade Fair in Leipzig (see above) as he was preparing his Tribune Tower entry.)

"You can rest assured that despite this I found it difficult to bring myself to publish my idea. There are people who, given the Catonian severity for which I have made a name for myself, would claim I was betraying my principles in doing something they would quite happily accept from any other architect. I will state here and now that I have not betrayed my principles and stand by my design unconditionally. With my close connections with the newspaper business, being not only an architect but also a writer and contributor to all modern art journals, and having worked in my younger days as art critic in New York, I am well aware how far one can go, in terms of architecture, with a newspaper building. This design is worthy of a Chicago Tribune, for a small newspaper it would be presumptuous.           
Most objections, I fear, will be directed at the lack of decoration in my project. This building is intended as a gigantic demonstration of my doctrine that we replace the ornamentation of antiquity with the quality of our materials. It is to be made of one material alone: black, polished granite (see below)."
  Chicago Tribune Tower Competition entry, Adolf Loos, 1922From Adolf Loos by Alessandra Coppa, 24 Ore Cultura, 2013, p. 103.
"No illustration is capable of revealing the effect of this column. The smooth, polished surfaces of the cubic base and the fluting of the column would make an overwhelming impression on the observer. It would be a surprise, a sensation even in these modern and blase times.             
The building is no higher than the regulations allow, but the perspective created by the abacus makes it appear higher.            
I have been lavish in the use of space. Monumentality is always achieved at the cost of space: high entrance halls, broad staircases etc. The owner must remember that true grandeur is not characterized by petty utility but that the most impressive effects are obtained by the opposite, as is proved by the New York Herald Building and the Morgan Building.             
The return between the base of the column and the plant building is to be of brick and terracotta, with the exception of the cornice and the columns, which are to be of the same material as the main building. This will be the best way of showing that the new building and the existing plant belong together.              
The colossi over the entrance columns have their antecedent in tradition in the Temple of Jupiter at Acragas and in the crouching figure of  the Theater of Dionysos in Athens.
If the height restriction of four hundred feet should be removed the statue of a seated Roman tribune could be placed on top of the column.             
Until now huge columns have only been erected in the Roman style, never the Greek. Until now this idea was slumbering in our imagination, now it has taken on form.          
This huge, Greek Doric column will be built. If not in Chicago, then in another City. If not for the Chicago Tribune, then for someone else. If not by me, then by another architect.("Loos, Adolf, "The Chicago Tribune Column,"  Zeitschrift der Oster. Ingenieur-und Architektenvereins, January 26, 1923).
How Loos's entry would look today had it been built, presaging the Post-Modern era by a full 60 years. (From archiV).

Loos's ending quote was precious indeed as it foresaw by 60 years the dawning of the Postmodernism Movement in architecture. Loos's "Column" would have made a timeless statement on Michigan Avenue as seen above. As Loos predicted, his idea would come to fruition in another city for another client by another architect. Michael Graves' 1995 Denver Public Library clearly captures elements of Loos's now iconic 1922 design in a quite imaginative manner.  

Denver Public Library, Michael Graves, architect. From Denver Library.

Left, second prize, Eliel Saarinen, Helsingfors, Finland. Right, first prize, John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood, New York. (Sullivan, Louis H., "The Chicago Tribune Competition," Architectural Record, February, 1923, pp. 154-155).

Sullivan's review of the competition in the February 1923 issue of the Architectural Record was also silent on Loos's "Column" entry but instead focused upon a comparison between the first prize entry of John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood and that of second place winner Eliel Saarinen. (See above). Sullivan's scathing critique of the Tribune's selection jury choice bemoaned of a lost opportunity in the advancement of modern architecture,
"It's act has deprived the world of a shining mark, denied it a monument to beauty, to faith, to courage and to hope. Deprived an expectant world of that Romance for which it hungers, and had hoped to receive." Sullivan ended by repeating the stated goal of the Tribune, "It cannot be reitterated too emphatically that the primary objective of The Chicago Tribune in instituting this Competition is to secure the design for a structure distinctive and imposing - the most beautiful office building in the world." (Sullivan, Louis H., "The Chicago Tribune Competition," Architectural Record, February, 1923, pp. 151-157).
Sullivan's remarks on Saarinen's design prophesied "A time to come, and not so far away, when the wretched and the yearning, the sordid and the fierce, shall escape the bondage and the mania of fixed ideas."

"Awards in Architects' Competition for New Tribune Building," Chicago Tribune, December 3, 1922, p. I-3. Courtesy of the UC Santa Barbara, University Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, R. M. Schindler Collection. 

Schindler had actually been following the competition closely and kept a file of clippings sent to him by friends in Chicago. (See example above). He also read Sullivan's critique and sent him a letter expressing his agreement evidenced by Sullivan's March 6, 1923 reply from The Cliff Dwellers Club.
"Dear Schindler,
     Your interesting letter of Feb. 28th at hand, thanks for Frank Wright's address: its receipt has enabled me to write him a couple of important letters.
     Glad you like the Tribune 'Critique.' It has produced a sensation: and the issue has sold out.
     You ask me why I don't write more? from which I take it you have not been following my 'Autobiography of an Idea' - ten chapters of which have already appeared serially in 'The Journal of the Am. Inst. of Architects,' which issues monthly. I have also written something on the Imperial Hotel. Good luck to you in spite of difficulties. Kindest to the Missus.
     Sincerely,
     Louis H. Sullivan" (From McCoy's "Two Journeys," p. 149).
I have not yet been able to find any writings stating what Neutra and/or Schindler actually thought of their mentor Loos's tongue-in-cheek Tribune Tower Competition entry. If a joke was intended they certainly would have gotten it immediately upon seeing his entry rendering as they both "cut their teeth" on the "Chats" and would have undoubtedly agreed with his critique of the winning entry in the Architectural Record. Neutra incorporated references to his idol Sullivan's work and writings and his thoughts on the Tribune Tower winning design into his lectures on modern architecture as did Schindler. For example in a Pauline Schindler review of Neutra's November 28, 1928 lecture in Carmel she wrote,
"He cited the principle which is the alpha and the omega of modern architecture, "Form Follows Function," and distinguished between the functional architecture of the true modern, as compared with the formalist architecture of the earlier pseudo-classicists in the United States who took the Greek Doric column (italics mine) and thought they could make an American architecture with it. It is not the architect who now makes architecture said Mr. Neutra, but the situation out of which it arises. He clarified this by criticizing adversely several typically false buildings including the Chicago Tribune Building..." (Schindler, Pauline, "Neutra Renders Modern Architecture Intelligible," The Carmelite, December 5, 1928, p. 4).
Due to having to serve in World War I and lack of funds caused by the collapse of the European economy thereafter, Neutra was unable to fulfill his dream of coming to America until late 1923. After a brief stay in New York, Neutra followed in Schindler's footsteps to Chicago in late February 1924 where his goal was also to work with Wright. Shortly after arriving, Neutra visited all of Sullivan's Chicago buildings of which he opined in his autobiography, "Here in the middle of North America, I thought was work which could be compared with what Otto Wagner had been doing in Vienna of Central Europe. And that was the very highest accolade I was capable of giving to anything built." (Life and Shape by Richard Neutra, p. 181). 

Neutra further wrote that while still trying to find a publisher for Kindergarten Chats shortly after his move to Chicago,
"I also talked to a few people in Chicago about it, and they all laughed at me. Sullivan? they asked, - isn't he that old drunkard? He's a pauper now, and is being supported by his friends; each one pitches in five dollars a month." (Life & Shape, p. 182).
The Japanese Print: An Interpretation by Frank Lloyd Wright, Ralph Fletcher Seymour, 1912.

While researching Wright's and Sullivan's buildings and working for his new employer Holabird & Roche on the Palmer House Hotel project, Neutra met a mutual friend of theirs and Schindler, the noted publisher, artist and Cliff Dwellers Club founding officer Ralph Fletcher Seymour (see below), one of the people providing support to Sullivan. Seymour, whose office was in the Fine Arts Building where Wright had also previously held court, had published in 1912 Wright's first ever book, The Japanese Print: An Interpretation by Frank Lloyd Wright (see above). 

Schindler and Seymour were close friends from his and wife Pauline's time in Chicago. Before meeting and marrying RMS Pauline had lived with the Seymours with Marian Da Camara [Chace], future Kings Road housemate, while they were teaching at the Ravinia School in 1917-18. Schindler and Seymour had been corresponding regarding Schindler designing a cottage for Seymour in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. It was likely through Seymour that Neutra finally met Sullivan. (Author's note: Seymour's Carmel cottage was eventually built and both Pauline and RMS visited after their estrangement. For more on this see my "Schindler in Carmel, 1924." Schindler, Neutra and Seymour would all lecture at Carmel's Denny-Watrous Gallery between late 1928 and 1931.).

Ralph Fletcher Seymour, ca. 1912. From Caxton Club Journal Caxtonian, May 2011.

Cliff Dwellers Club etching by Ralph Fletcher Seymour from Some Went This Way: A Forty Year Pilgimage Among Artists, Bookmen and Printers by Ralph Fletcher Seymour, p. 139.

Neutra soon found a broken-spirited Sullivan living in loneliness and poverty at the shabby Warner Hotel.  After Neutra sent flowers up to his room, Sullivan came down a while later and invited him to dinner at the Cliff Dwellers Club (see below). Sullivan spoke of being forgotten and his ill health and Neutra tried to reassure him of his influence upon European architects. It was at this meeting that Neutra finally returned Sullivan's Kindergarten Chats manuscript. (Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture by Thomas S. Hines, University of California Press, 1994, p. 51) and Life & Shape, p. 182).

Louis Sullivan at the Cliff Dwellers' Club circa 1920.

Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 1904 by Daniel Burnham with Cliff Dwellers' Club on top floor.


Many of  Louis Henry Sullivan's last days were spent at the Cliff Dwellers Club atop Orchestra Hall on Michigan Avenue where they let him have a writing desk and meals for free. He survived his last years largely on the handouts of friends. Besides Seymour, architects Sidney K. Adler (former partner Dankmar's son), Max Dunning, George Nimmons, and Frank Lloyd Wright, plus associates at the American and Northwestern Terra Cotta companies, paid his bills, loaned him money, and often bought his meals. When Louis Henry Sullivan died on April 14, 1924, of kidney disease and inflammation of the cardiac muscles, they covered his funeral expenses and cleared up his financial obligations. The $189 in his bank account, which had also come from them, was almost all Sullivan owned. ("Sullivan, Louis H.," Encyclopedia of Architecture edited by Joseph A. Wilkes and Robert T. Packard, Wiley, 1989, p. 714). 

Louis Sullivan, ca. 1923. From "Louis H. Sullivan (1856-1924," Architectural Record, June, 1924, p. 587.

Ralph Fletcher Seymour letter to R. M. Schindler, April 17, 1924. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, R. M. Schindler Papers.

Seymour notified Schindler of Sullivan's death in a letter stating that Wallace Rice was to deliver the eulogy at the funeral and that Frank Lloyd Wright was to be an honorary pall-bearer (see above). A bereaved Neutra took off work from his new-found job at Holabird & Roche to attend the funeral. He wrote to Dione of the event,
"Poor Sullivan is dead. I wrote to you two weeks ago that I had the good fortune to visit him "at home." Oh my, Graceland Cemetery is a more suitable place than the Warner Hotel. I am sure it is not boasting when I tell you that I am probably the only person in Chicago who daily enjoys his buildings. He was not an achiever, never became as radical as the old Otto Wagner, but surely was one of the most significant Americans. Correspondingly, his funeral was sad. He told me, trying to get his breath and quite desolate, "What is left of my endeavors? Nothing. What are the young people doing? Oh my!" (Richard to Dione letter, Highland Park, May 1924. From Richard Neutra: Promise and Fulfillment, 1919-1932, p. 122).
Seymour's above letter also referenced Sullivan's The Autobiography of an Idea, hurriedly published by Press of the American Institute of Architects being presented to him on his deathbed. In his introduction Claude Bragdon, who would 10 years later lovingly take on the task of editing the"Chats," fondly reminisced, 
"Although his writings have appeared only in pamphlet form, and as contributions to journals of  limited circulation and short life, they were of a kind to imprint themselves upon the mind of youth, "wax to receive and marble to retain." His Kindergarten Chats, impatiently awaited, week by week, as they appeared in a trade journal long since vanished, hidden  under draughting-boards until the exit of "the boss," and then eagerly read, destroyed for many young men - I was one of them - the world of ideas into which they had been educated, but only to create another and a better world of ideas in their stead. 
The Chats proved to be a vigorous, bitter, bludgeoning assault upon the then existing architectural order (is it different now, I wonder?), but they pointed out a way to freedom to any sincere young architectural talent stifling in the tainted air of our industrialism or bogged in the academic morass. Large, loose, discursive, a blend of the sublime and the ridiculous, as though Ariel had collaborated with Caliban, Kindergarten Chats remains in my memory as one of the most provocative, amazing, amusing, astounding, inspiring things that I have ever read." 
Seymour and erstwhile Sullivan apprentice, George Elmslie, formerly of the noted Prairie School team of Purcell & Elmslie, collected Sullivan's possessions after his death for safekeeping, including the manuscript for Kindergarten Chats that Neutra had recently returned. It was at the funeral that Neutra finally was able to meet Wright and tell him of his profound influence. A flattered Wright invited him to dinner and even though he had no work, to visit Taliesin

Helena Rubenstein, 1924 modeling a 1923 Paul Poiret dress. Nikolas Muray photo from The Jewish Museum.

Not long after Sullivan's funeral, Schindler wrote Seymour that he was planning a stopover in Chicago on his way to New York to remodel Helena Rubenstein's Manhattan salon and Greenwich, CT residence. He had just completed a reception room-salon in Hollywood for her at the southeast corner of Highland Ave. and Hollywood Blvd. just a block from Frank Lloyd Wright's Freeman House. The project was photographed by Viroque Baker (see two below) who may have provided the introduction through her considerable Hollywood Woman's Club connections. (For more on this see my "The Schindlers and the Hollywood Art Association," WSZW and "The Schindlers in Carmel, 1924").

Helena Rubenstein Salon Reception Room, 1780 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood, 1924. R. M. Schindler, architect. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections, R. M. Schindler Collection. A special thanks to curator Jocelyn Gibbs for providing this image.

Ralph Fletcher Seymour letter to R. M. Schindler, ca. May 1924. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, R. M. Schindler Papers.

Seymour's above reply stated that they were looking forward to him staying with them while he was in Chicago and that Neutra wanted to see him while he was passing through (see above). The late May layover enabled a renewal of his friendship with Neutra on very friendly terms after their 10-year separation. This reunion most certainly heightened Neutra's eagerness to finally make the fateful move to Los Angeles. (From R. M. Schindler by Judith Sheine, Phaidon, 2001, p. 65). 

Like Schindler, Neutra also undoubtedly followed the Tribune Tower competition and witnessed much of its construction firsthand before moving to Taliesin in the late fall and Los Angeles in February 1925. He also had an article published in Europe in which he discussed the Tribune Tower structural system which he characterized as "extraordinary" notwithstanding its Gothic cladding, and expressed his admiration for H. J. Burt's role in bringing to fruition the technology of the skyscraper. (Neutra, Richard, "Die altesten Hochhauser und der jungste Turm," Die Baugilde, 6 (1924): 495-97, 505-7 and cited in Solomonson, p. 256). 

Tribune Tower under construction from the southwest. Photograph by Eugene Cour, July 5, 1924. From Solomonson, p. 256. Original image courtesy of Chicago Tribune Company.

The above and below construction photos illustrate Burt's structural design and indicate how rapidly the structure rose. It seems likely that Schindler and Neutra visited the site and discussed the building's structural aspects during RMS's late May visit on his way to New York. Ironically, Neutra would not include any images of the Tribune Tower in either of his first two books, the 1926 Wie Baut Amerika? and the 1930 Amerika: Neues Bauen in der Weltprobably out of respect for Sullivan's opinions on the design competition which they likely discussed during their only meeting shortly before his death. He did, however, include an extensive illustrated construction chronology featuring the structural skeleton of the Palmer House project in his second book. 

Tribune Tower under construction from the north. Photograph by Eugene Cour, September 22, 1924. From Solomonson, p. 258. Original image courtesy of Chicago Tribune Company.

Frank Lloyd Wright's six-page tribute to "The Master" was published in the July issue of Architectural Record. Wright wrote at length of Sullivan's genius and the importance of his four masterpieces,
"Only the Chicago Auditorium, the Transportation Building, the Getty Tomb and the Wainwright Building are necessary to show the great reach of creative activity that was Louis Sullivan's genius. ... When he brought in the board with the motive for the Wainwright Building outlined in profile and in scheme upon it and threw it down on the table, I was perfectly aware of what had happened. This was Louis Sullivan's greatest moment - his greatest effort. The "skyscraper," as a new thing beneath the sun, an entity with virtue, individuality and beauty all its own, was born." (Wright, Frank Lloyd, "Louis H. Sullivan - His Work," Architectural Record, July, 1924, pp. 28-33).
Wainwright Building, Adler & Sullivan, 1891.

Future (1928-1933) Neutra apprentice Harwell Hamilton Harris was also deeply influenced by Sullivan's writings even before he had decided to become an architect as he recollected in his oral history about his art student days at Otis Art Institute,
"I had never heard of Sullivan, although I'm sure I had seen something of his, because it looked familiar to me when I did see his work later. It was not until, as a student at Otis, [I] went into the office of the director on some matter or other, that Karl Howenstein shoved over a typewritten sheet for me to read. It was something he had written for a magazine, and the occasion for the writing was the death of Louis Sullivan. I read it and didn't forget it, and, less than a year afterward, [Sullivan's] The Autobiography of an Idea was published. Howenstein spoke in his piece about the influence of Sullivan. He had worked for a short time for Sullivan, but in Sullivan's much later years. He talked, I remember, in this piece for publication about the influence that Sullivan had on draftsmen in various offices. ... I did read The Autobiography of an Idea, in 1926 I guess. I was very much taken with it and became a great admirer of Sullivan." (Organic View of Design, p. 89. See also my "Richard Neutra and the California Art Club" and my "The Schindlers and the Hollywood Art Association," for more on Howenstein).
Thanksgiving at Kings Road, 1923. Herman Sachs, far left, others at table clockwise from Sachs include Karl Howenstein and Edith Gutterson, Anton Martin Feller, E. Clare Schooler (lover of Dorothy Gibling), person partially obscured at right (unidentified), Betty Katz, Alexander R. Brandner, unidentified, and Max Pons (obscured to Sachs' right). Another photo exists from the opposite side of the table which includes Dorothy Gibling (frequent long-term guest at Kings Road) to Betty Katz's right. Photo by R. M. Schindler. From the UCSB Art Museum R. M. Schindler Papers and "Life at Kings Road: As It Was 1920-1940" by Robert Sweeney in The Architecture of R. M. Schindler, p. 97. (I am indebted to architectural historian William Scott Blair, steward of the Feller Archive, for identifying Feller and sharing his tragic story with me and help identifying the others in the photo.)

Howenstein's Sullivan tribute was written about the time Neutra met Wright at Sullivan's funeral and shortly thereafter moved to Taliesin with wife Dione to work for Wright. Friends of the Schindlers in Chicago, Karl Howenstein and Edith Gutterson (center back above) had also met while working at the Art Institute of Chicago. Edith fondly reminisced years later about her and Karl's evenings spent in Sullivan's company,
"During the years 1915- 17 I was working at the Art Institute in Chicago and met Karl Howenstein, who eventually I married. He was an architect (really more interested in men's souls than their dwellings, and a great admirer of  Sullivan 's ideas and of the man himself. I saw Sullivan possibly six times in this manner. Karl and I would meet him and take him to the Tip-Top Inn [Pullman Building at Michigan Ave. and Adams St.], where we would get a table by the window where we would look down on the lights of the city, and off to the darkness of the lake. We would sit there for several hours, eating cheese sandwiches and drinking beer, while Sullivan talked. Karl always felt that his words, spoken, were more fraught with meaning and carried overtones of meaning not possible in the written word, and now I know what he meant. His mind would range from one point to another, from one subject to another, but not rambling. Each thought and point grew organically out of the preceding. I wish I could remember the actual contents of the talks, but it is no use pretending that I recall them, except that I do recall hearing the name of a great number of philosophers mentioned, among them Rudolph Steiner. (It was only later that I personally met Anthroposophy myself). I think that thing I remember best is the impact of his real concern for men, the human being, and his spiritual and emotional needs. There was no patronizing, or feeling that he in any way knew the answer, only a deep desire to share whatever he comprehended. There was nothing of the 'Master' about him, as there was about Wright or Neutra. Of course. Wright called him 'Master', but I have the feeling Sullivan would have accepted this half humorously. I remember his eyes, gentle at times, but when really, roused, fire would flash from them. He was an essentially kind man, in the way I feel Dr. Steiner was." (Prairie School Review, Vol. 10, 1972, pp. 1-20).
It was Edith who was then dating and discussing marriage with RMS who introduced him to Pauline Gibling in early 1919. Howenstein and Gutterson  moved to Los Angeles in 1922 and lived for two years in the Schindler's Kings Road House. Howenstein would become Director of the Otis Art Institute and Curator of the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art.

Herman Sachs (far left above) exhibited his "applied arts" at the Art Institute of Chicago and also established the Chicago Industrial Arts School at Jane AddamsHull-House in late 1920 just as the Schindlers were moving to Los Angeles (see below). (Note: Neutra also briefly lived and worked at Hull-House just after arriving in Chicago in 1923). Sachs moved to Los Angeles in 1923 after a brief stint as Director of the Dayton Art Museum.

"Program for the Chicago Industrial Art School, Hull-House" by Herman Sachs. From my collection.

The Viennese Feller (to Edith's left in the above photo) and Alexander Brandner (across the table in the light shirt) were fellow architects that Schindler helped enter the U.S. and collaborated with. Feller's wife had given birth to a baby girl about a month prior to this picture and tragically committed suicide two weeks later, likely accounting for Feller's depressed demeanor. Feller was then working in Frank Lloyd Wright's Los Angeles office on nearby Harper Ave. with Swiss architect Werner Moser, another Kings Road visitor with wife Sylva, and Kameki and Nobu Tsuchiura who had also worked on Wright's Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. They all moved to Taliesin the following February where the Neutra's met and worked beside them later in the year (see below). ("Identified in Death Leap," Los Angeles Times, November 9, 1923, p. II-1). (I am indebted to William Blair Scott, Steward of Feller's Papers, for bringing this to my attention.)

From left to right, Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, Sylva Moser, and new baby, Kameki Tsuchiura, Nobu Tsuchiura, Werner Moser on the violin and Dione Neutra on the cello in the living room at Taliesin, 1924. From Richard Neutra: Promise and Fulfillment, 1919-1932, p. 52).

Neutra moved to Taliesin with wife Dione and new son Frank in September 1924 before relocating to California in February 1925 to finally achieve his dream of joining Schindler.

The Neutras at Taliesin, 1924. From left, Dione, Richard, FLW's namesake baby Frank, and Dione's mother Lilly Niedermann. From Richard Neutra: Promise and Fulfillment, 1919-1932, p. 51.

FLW having a Kindergarten Chat with baby Frank Neutra at Taliesin, 1924. From Richard Neutra: Promise and Fulfillment, 1919-1932, p. 51. 

While working at Taliesin in late 1924 and sitting at lunch opposite Wright, Neutra, 
"... opened a letter [from Ralph Fletcher Seymour], and inside was a topaz stickpin, sent to me with an appreciative and hopeful letter. It told me that I was worthy to have the pin which Sullivan had worn in better days and which his friends had now redeemed from the pawn shop. They thought I deserved it for my enthusiasm and friendliness to the old master. Glowing, I, who was nobody, rushed around the table to Mr. Wright. "Do you recognize it?" He shook his head, and I gave him the letter. It was a mistake. He read and silently gave me back these tokens. He seemed sad. The necktie pin I have never worn. It is in a bank safe." (Life & Shape, p. 185).
FLW and Richard Neutra at Taliesin, 1924.

The event was so meaningful to Neutra that he wrote about it years later in a letter to Seymour,
"Your considering me a worthy heir of something that Sullivan owned has immensely encouraged me through the many dark hours of being derided and seeming to fail to reach any goal in this difficult profession. ... Always when I had a tough time, I used to look at the pin and read your letter. ...I wonder whether you guessed what you contributed to my effort and career when you wrote me suddenly that I, an unknown young man, was worthy to have that token and would live up to it." (Hines, p. 54).
The pin is now the proud stewardship of Neutra biographer Thomas S. Hines. Per Raymond Neutra, "My mother gave it to Tom Hines because she thought he would treasure it and see that it found an ultimate home." (e-mail to the author, 06-24-2011). Sullivan's pin could not be in better hands.

The Neutras left Taliesin in late February 1925 and traveled to Los Angeles and moved the Schindler's Kings Road House in early March (see below). There they would remain until May 1930 when Neutra began his fateful world tour. (See "The Foundations of Los Angeles Modernism" for more details on this period).

Richard, Dione and Frank Neutra and RMS at Kings Road, 1928. Photo by Jean Murray Bangs, later wife of later Neutra disciple Harwell Hamilton Harris. (McCoy Papers, Archives of American Art)

Pauline Schindler wrote of Neutra in late 1928 in The Carmelite, a newspaper in Carmel-by-the-Sea she was editing after leaving her husband,
"'Form Follows Function' said Louis Sullivan. 'This is the basis for the new architecture.' Richard Neutra, who lectures in Carmel at the studio of Denny and Watrous next Sunday evening, is what we might call a direct architectural descendant of Louis Sullivan. Every profession and every art which has great teachers has its lineages. The greatest of those who called Sullivan "Master" was Frank Lloyd Wright. ... Louis Sullivan became a great influence upon American architecture because he could not only understand consciously what he was driving at; he could not only build buildings which illustrated the principle that form follows function; but he could make his meaning clear to the rest of the world. Richard Neutra is one of the two or three true descendants of the lineage of Sullivan and Wright, to whom architecture is not merely an expression of a civilization but a conditioning agent of future cultures." (Schindler, Pauline, "The Architecture of the Future," The Carmelite, November 28, 1928, p. 11). (Also see my Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism, 1927-1936 for more details).
 
Kindergarten Chats by Louis Sullivan, Scarab Fraternity Press, 1934. (From my collection).

It would not be until 1934, ten years after Sullivan's death, that Kindergarten Chats would finally be published in book form (see above). It was through the foresight of George Elmslie's saving of Sullivan's papers that ten years after his death, SCARAB, the professional intercollegiate architectural fraternity, published Kindergarten Chats on the occasion of it's Silver Anniversary. Editor Claude F. Bragdon states in his introduction that,
"Several attempts were made, both before and after Sullivan's death in 1924, to have the essays issued in book form, but all proved abortive. Though no names were mentioned, the Chats contained strictures on then-living architects which might be construed as libelous; and intemperate language, the slang of the day, bad puns, tiresome jokes, so marred the facade of this masterpiece that for publication in book form emendations and excisions were imperative. Sullivan refused to perform this task himself, nor would he submit to anyone else's editorship. His literary executor and long-time associate, Mr. George G. Elmslie, and other interested parties, having now placed this delicate and difficult matter in my hands, I have done the best I could with it." 
Book design by Sullivan pupil Eugene Voita.

Back cover with Neutra blurb.

Neutra's blurb on the back cover read, "In 'America: A New Building in the World,' I have endeavored to set a monument to Louis H. Sullivan, a fine and great man." (See above). Indeed, Neutra included numerous Sullivan projects in his second book published in 1930. California Arts & Architecture published Neutra's review of the Chats shortly after publication (see below). Neutra wrote,
"[Sullivan] in his lalks to the young designer had fundamentally shaken the arbitrariness and stylistic eclecticism of a transitory period and found new bearings for a contemporary architecture, preparing its consistent growth to something comparable with what architecture loyal to its time had meant in periods of the past. The Darwinian theory on an unavoidable relation of organic development to its influential surroundings, a theory which in the nineteenth century impressed the minds and spread fom biology to other fields of application, is reflected in Sullivan's functional philosophy." (See below).
"Kindergarten for Infant Architects," by Richard Neutra, California Arts & Architecture, June 1935, p. 25.

Louis H. Sullivan: Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings by Louis H. Sullivan, edited by Elizabeth Athey, Wittenborn, 1947.

Long out of print, a second edition of the Chats was published by George Wittenborn in 1947 featuring cover design and typography by Paul Rand as part of the highly collected Documents of Modern Art series (see above). This edition restored the manuscript from the Bragdon edition back to the way Sullivan had originally revised it in 1918 and added other selected writings by Sullivan to add context and perspective. The publisher's comments reflected,
"From June to October 1918, Sullivan worked over the manuscript and produced the text which follows, and which therefore represents its definitive form. The actual manuscript gives the impression that Sullivan revised in the exact meaning of the word, that he gave attention to every sentence and paragraph, that his alterations of word and phrase, his cutting and rewriting, were the product of genuine reconsideration and a desire for greater clarity. The redundant or unprecise adjective was discarded, the specific term was substituted for the more general or the vague one repetitive passages were deleted. Throughout this revision and the text here published was prepared directly from the original manuscript it may be said that the secondary has been sacrificed to the primary."

Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings by Louis H. Sullivan, Dover, 1979.


The Chats are still easily findable via the 1979 Dover reprint of the Wittenborn edition (see above). Both Neutra and Schindler's stays in Chicago profoundly influenced their subsequent development. Meeting Sullivan while there and attempting to help cement his legacy with the publication of his Kindergarten Chats must have nostalgically taken them back to their days in Vienna and their very similar chats with their like-minded Sullivan admirer and mentor Adolf Loos.


Recommended Further Reading and Sullivan Resources:

For a thoughtful analysis on the impact of Sullivan's Kindergarten Chats and period correspondence regarding their development I recommend the multi-talented Claude Bragdon's fascinating autobiography, More Lives Than One.

For an in-depth discourse on the Chats see the excellent "Louis Sullivan's Kindergarten Chats [or] Form really does follow Function" by Samantha Krukowski.

For a brilliant scholarly study of the interrelationships between Sullivan and Loos and the little-known H. P. Berlage - Louis Sullivan interactions I highly recommend "An Exchange on the Surface: Sullivan, Berlage and Loos" by Wim de Wit who generously provided his article for this linkage. This unpublished paper, made available here for the first time, was presented as part of the Louis Sullivan at 150 International Symposium in Chicago, one of Wim's stops along his remarkably similar journey to Los Angeles as R. M. Schindler and Richard Neutra which I hope to write about in the future. You can also listen to Wim's lecture live at Louis Sullivan at 150 along with all the other presentations and the keynote address by one of my favorite historians, Jean-Louis Cohen, whose Scenes of the World to Come is truly a masterpiece of architectural research.


For additional reading on Sullivan and the 1893 Chicago World's Fair: Columbian Exposition I recommend:

Louis Sullivan: The Function of Ornament by Wim de Wit

Grand Illusions: Chicago's World's Fair of 1893 by Wim de Wit
 
Other books by de Wit